It’s no secret that I love BMW. I love the brand and what it stands for, and much like sports fans —we stick to our teams and roll with the punches, unless you’re a bandwagon kind of person.
We win and lose together. If you’ve been reading some of the stories I’ve released in the past, you would know that I was once BMW’s product planner for the Philippines. I loved my job, but I simply couldn’t cut it. I’m bringing this up yet again, because I want to reiterate that there is so much more that goes on into product planning than just simply picking colors, trims, engines, and wheels.
If it were that simple, all 5 Series cars that I’d order would be M5s — take it or leave it. There is however, some serious science and math behind it, and that’s the part I couldn’t do. You see, when you decide that you’d like to bring in the likes of a BMW 5 Series with an M Sport package, you have to create a case and defend it to your bosses like a college thesis a year before its local release.
There are roughly 365 days of going back and forth with a boss that will find every vulnerable place he or she can attack you in. If you survive, your boss will defend the strategy to the regional office heads and tell them that there is in fact a market for it in the Philippines, and then the regional office will make a call to BMW AG and say that the Philippines can indeed sell the cars — it is a business.
They must sell. Therefore, it must make business sense and it must be profitable. It takes roughly 6 months to build a car, and in those months, you better pray that your country’s economy is stable, because if it isn’t, you’ll be forced to cough up more money by the time the car has been built and shipped — and that messes up your pricing. And that is only the scraping the surface of product planning.
Ultimate Driving Machine.
Here’s the other problem. Many people in the Philippines don’t really care about what options their BMW have for as long as it has the blue and white roundel on the bonnet. You can sell a dead cat with a BMW badge to some Chinese boy with mad cash to blow. This is why the brand has suffered significantly in terms of value because majority of the BMWs you see circling around the metro can’t even beat a Toyota Camry in options and features. They are as basic as bread and they don’t even come with butter. This is why discussing BMW with people in the country is as controversial as talking about Michael Jordan versus Lebron James.
Everyone chooses to turn a blind eye on what it is today, and chooses to revel in its sweet glory days — the rumbling inline-6 and the pungent smell of oily cow hide. Although the world has moved on with downsized engines and turbocharging, no child is ever going to aspire to own a Bimmer when they look like Uber X vehicles. This makes the strategy to sell high volume ‘vanilla’ BMWs quite short-sighted, because every single person who’ll grow up to remember the brand, won’t remember it the way I do. They will salivate over an Audi or a Lexus, and when they are of age to afford it, that’s where they’re going to buy.
Thankfully, there was someone who decided that Sheer Driving Pleasure was worth fighting for and that simply selling APEC units and program cars would prove to be disastrous. I worked directly under him in the past, but I simply couldn’t take the pressure and level of expectation — so I left. However, this is the result of a perfectionist’s mindset, and somehow losing a few battles and a few soldiers along the way doesn’t necessarily mean that you lose the war. Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great joy to welcome you all to a real BMW — the all-new G30 520d M Sport — and it retails at a measly 5.4 million pesos only. Yes, it’s relatively a lot of money, but it is also a whole lot of car. Let me explain.
From a design standpoint, BMWs apart from the Bangle era, have always been evolutionary rather than revolutionary. This is why they age so well, with unmistakable design cues — unlike Mercedes-Benz which switches designs completely after each product cycle. This new 5 Series is quite pretty. It isn’t perfect. There are some fat sloppy angles, but like a gorgeous lady whose eyes, nose, and lips aren’t individually stunning — she is when once she's looked at collectively. This particular car is dressed by the M Sport atelier, making it even sexier with extra bling and a set of 19-inch alloy wheels. BMW’s Icon Adaptive LED headlights are stellar at night and sexy as hell. It alters the car’s overall presence significantly, like a beautiful lady that winks at you in Revel.
"So what you have is an extremely regal lady in public, but an absolutely kinky one in private."
The interior is a complete stunner. BMW really went to town on this one, and what we have locally is identical to what you’d see if you 'Googled' press photos of a BMW 5 Series. It’s the real deal. You have the highest resolution multifunction display, a head-up display unit that doesn’t just show your speed but even the songs on your playlist, and a 10.2-inch Navigation System Professional unit mated to the industry leading iDrive system. The Harman Kardon Logic 7 audio system is so versatile, it makes the ears jizz.
As far as design and ergonomics go, this is King. Everything you touch in the cabin is of beautiful soft-touch material, the ambient lighting has finally been perfected with LED light strips that give a calming afterglow, and leather sport seats with adjustable side bolsters. It’s an unbelievable package, with loads of space, and next level fit and finish. I sound like a complete geek at the moment, but it feels like you’ve gone for an evening swim alone in Balesin and then a tipsy Jessica Alba appears out of nowhere and skinny dips with you.
And then there’s the driving experience, the hallmark of a BMW. I recently drove the BMW X3 and thought that it was nothing more than a fashion tool. It did everything well, except excite me behind the wheel. This 5 Series on the other hand, is marvellous. The electric power steering is precise and communicative. The car corners on rails, too. I had the car in torrential rain, and in the wet twisty mountain roads, it never broke a sweat — no matter how idiotically hard I pushed. There was no corner that was too tight for the chassis to handle, and it fired out of corners with so much gusto. I am a gearbox snob, in that it has to either be a dual clutch or a full-on H pattern manual, but the 8-speed sport automatic transmission in this car is responsive and telepathic — unlike the X3’s which is stupid.
It’s ultra smooth too when you’re stuck in the city. You also have a selection of different driving modes, but just to show you how naturally athletic the new 5 Series is, putting it on ‘Sport’ only made it marginally better. You only feel the difference in really twisty roads because the car tenses up, but other than that, ‘Comfort’ leans on the sportier side. It’s never lethargic. Amidst all of its superior driving dynamics, it is complemented by unbelievable ride quality. It is literally as quiet and compliant as the previous generation 7 Series, and I’m not even half kidding. It handles imperfect road conditions like a gliding ballerina.
The Business Athlete.
The car is powered by a 2-liter diesel that pumps out a modest 188 horsepower, which isn’t much if you think about it. However, it’s the way it uses all the horses and 400 Newton Meters of torque that makes the difference. It’s still enough to leave most cars on the road for dead, and where you can be beaten on a straight line, you can make up for in blistering cornering speed because the chassis was built with the M5 in mind. The limit is quite high on this one and I can only imagine what it feels like with three times the power.
The upside to having this engine is that it is outstandingly fuel efficient, and in a country with an average speed of 2 kilometres per hour — it matters. I did an average of 11.7 kilometers per litre on a combined cycle, which included getting stranded for hours in Makati traffic and giving it absolutely everything in twisty mountain roads. I travelled roughly 600 kilometres in the car and returned it with 220 kilometres left in its fuel range. So what you have is an extremely regal lady in public, but an absolutely kinky one in private.
Made to be driven.
I am blessed with the privilege of driving many beautiful cars almost on a weekly basis, but none has the thought of returning one mortified me more than this. It’s gorgeous, luxurious, quick, and fuel efficient. As a luxury car proposition in the Philippines, it is a near impossible act to follow. It is a relatively attainable dream car. I’m overjoyed that there are now aspirational BMWs to see on the road and that people will be able to relate to me more. I also feel a little bit of redemption that my former boss who grilled me with lessons I couldn’t understand then, delivered on a promise that he would turn BMW’s products around.
And yes, it did take years of planning, but we’re finally here with a sensational representation of a 5 Series that captures the essence of a true BMW. The complete and utter joy of driving an unbelievably dynamic car that does everything well with zero fault, is quintessential. This BMW makes you feel so deeply connected to it, that at every twist and hairpin, I could hear the car dedicating a hymn to the road. At a shade under 5.4 million pesos, it is without doubt that the BMW 520d M Sport is — all things considered — the absolute best automobile on sale in the Philippines. It is the return of the Ultimate Driving Machine.
Sheer Driving Pleasure.